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Taika Waititi, New Zealand

Fun and energetic coming-of-ager with an effective layer of sentiment. Boy is the name of the main character (James Rolleston), an eleven-year-old living in a small coastal town in 1984 New Zealand. Boy idolizes Michael Jackson, whose Thriller album is top of the charts. But in a close second place he idolizes his father. His mother died years ago during his brother's childbirth, and his Dad left not soon after, leaving Boy and brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) to be raised by his grandmother, along with a houseful of younger cousins, also parentless. In his father's absence, Boy has imagined his wayward pop to be a sort of dancing adventurer who travels the globe. He is slowly confronted with the reality of who he is when he shows up suddenly. His Dad, Alamein (played by writer/director Taika Waititi) is a handsome charmer, but really nothing but a small-time crook and loser. He has returned after so many years because he has gotten out of his most recent stint in jail, and he and two other degenerates from the slam are there only long enough to find a stolen loot of a few thousand dollars that was buried on the property one night in haste while making an escape from the cops. As Alamein digs and digs trying to find the spot, Boy and Rocky learn who their Dad is, and heroic adventurer doesn't come close.

This is Taika Waititi's second feature, following 2007's off-beat romantic comedy Eagle vs. Shark, starring Flight of the Conchords alum Jemaine Clement (Waititi also directed several of the "Conchords" television episodes). Boy is a nice mix of the frantically and hysterically off-beat and a sneaky poignant examination of family dynamics and disappointments. Plenty of big laughs, but heart as well.


And if you've never seen Waititi's Oscar-nominated short Two Cars, One Night, check it out below. Similar sensibility on how children are depicted, but expanded for Boy...